Film production is booming in New Zealand

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New Zealand is suddenly a hive of activity on the filming front. Harvey Weinstein recently jetted into the country to check up on the filming of his very controversial (to cinema operators) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend with Michelle Yeoh and Harry Shum, Jr. at the Auckland Film Studios. Robert Redford is very busy Down Under at the moment. He is filming Truth (in which he co-stars with Cate Blanchett and stars as Dan Rather) in Australia and the Disney remake of Pete's Dragon in New Zealand. Z For Zachariah, starring Chris Pine, Margot Robbie and Chiwetel Ejiofor, has just finished filming near the earthquake-stricken city of Christchurch. The film is about a 16-year-old girl who survives a nuclear war in a small Midwestern American town. Light Between the Oceans also recently finished and the three Avatar sequels are about to start lensing.

There’s good news for Christchurch, by the way. One of its quake-damaged theatres is about to reopen. The Theatre Royal opened in 1908 as a stage theatre but later became a cinema. It closed after substantial damage in the 2011 quake and work started in 2013 on restoration of the building. There is hope that it will reopen in late 2014 or early 2015.

In the latest statistics released on cinema habits, Australians are reported as visiting the cinema on average 3.5 times per person per year. This compares to four times in the U.S. and 2.6 in the U.K.

Australia regularly co-produces films with other countries. It has made 51 co-productions with Canada, 42 with the U.K. and 31 with France. The latest country to team up with Australian producers is India. There are hopes for a success such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in the three productions. They include An Indian Summer, about a young Australian boy who moves with his family to India; Unindian, which follows the romance of an Indian Australian career woman and an Australian teacher; and Lion, the film adaptation of Saroo Brierley's book A Long Way Home. In the latter, an Indian boy falls asleep on a train and loses his parents. He is adopted by an Australian couple and taken to live in Australia. Years later, he tries to find his parents. Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) will star. Filming starts in India in January.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.